Do you remember when you were in your teens and everything your parents did was embarrassing? The car your dad drove was embarrassing; the house you lived in was embarrassing; the way your mom and dad dressed was embarrassing; the way they breathed was embarrassing. Ahh, memories…
Well, guess who’s embarrassing now? It’s you. It’s me. We are them. We are it. I’ve accepted this fact and you should, too. I may have conceded that point, but I’m also interested in knowing exactly HOW I’m embarrassing my teenage children — and secretly hoping I can get some tips on how to embarrass them less.
I interviewed two teenage girls — my own daughter and her best friend — in a candid moment during a school night sleepover (I was in particularly good graces with them because I had allowed such a thing to happen). From the floor of my dining room, as they painted their nails black, red, and yellow, they had the following to say on the subject of dads and fashion choices:
*The obvious infractions:
The first word out of both of their mouths: “Speedos.” Okay, this is easy to accept. To my chagrin, the next words were “L.L. Bean.”
“What?” I said. “L.L. Bean? We’ve got tons of L.L. Bean stuff! My jacket is L.L. Bean; your snow pants are L.L. Bean.”
“I don’t literally mean L.L. Bean the brand name,” my daughter answered. “I mean the L.L. Bean state of mind. Duck boots, for example. Dads should never wear duck boots.”
“Oh,” I said. “All right. No duck boots, even though they keep my feet dry and warm.”
“No black socks with shorts. No socks with sandals EVER. And stay away from knitted sweaters, too,” my daughter added as she spilled black nail polish on the floor. “Oops.”
“Knitted sweaters?” I repeated, trying to think of even one reason why knitted sweaters could possibly be embarrassing to anyone, but I decided I had to accept their opinions and keep my mouth shut.
“Yeah. No knitted sweaters. Oh, and no turtlenecks; turtlenecks are definitely out.”
“True dat,” my daughter’s friend added. “And no poofy down jackets.”
“Okay, so without knitted sweaters and turtlenecks and down jackets and duck boots, how is a dad supposed to keep warm?” I asked, curiosity piqued.
“I would say stylish coats,” my daughter pronounced. “Merino wool is acceptable.”
*Dress Your Age:
“Do not try to fit in with the new stuff. And by this, I mean, don’t dress in stuff that people your age should not be wearing.”
“Like what?” I asked.
“Low-rider pants. Or jeans that belong on super-fit 20-year-olds. Or hip hop sneakers. Or just whatever isn’t intended for mature use.”
“I have never seen anyone my age trying to wear low-rider pants,” I said.
“I’ve seen it, and it is NOT pretty,” my daughter replied with a peal of laughter.
*Wear Clothes That Fit:
“It’s a common fashion crime for men and women of all ages to try and cram themselves into clothing that is way too small for them, thinking that it makes them look smaller than they actually are,” my daughter explained. “Clothes that are too small make you look fat,” she said. “I repeat. Clothes that are too small make you look fatter. Wait, I didn’t mean to say fatter.’”
Okay, I had to admit to myself, this is very, very good advice. We’ve all seen men who’ve crammed themselves into pants in the size they were ten or twenty years ago; nothing good comes of it. The same goes for shirts that hug all the wrong places in all the wrong ways. She had a really good point.
*One Final Thought:
“No white sneakers,” my daughter concluded, before going back to her nails and ceasing to acknowledge that I was in the room. I asked for some further explanation about the white sneakers, but got nothing. I walked out of the room and headed over to the floor-length mirror in our front hallway. I have to admit, I took a very brief spin. Just to make sure that my pants weren’t too tight.